3 Early Errors That Can Kill CRM in the Cradle

In long-distance navigation — like in a boat or an airplane — if you’re going to make an error, it’s better to make it later than to make it early on. A half-degree mistake can multiply itself into hundreds of miles over the course of a long voyage, but the same error made toward the end of the trip needs just a slight jog to set things right.

That’s very much the way it is with the CRM decision-making process, and it’s what makes choosing and deploying CRM so tricky. The errors you make early on will reverberate through the entire lifecycle of the CRM application — and if you don’t make a course correction, your entire investment is likely to run hard aground.

Many of the victims of “CRM failure” suffered that fate because of errors made very early on in the process. These sad, easily avoided mistakes are purely human in nature. Avoiding them is a major step toward getting your CRM decisions right. But that’s not easy — unless you’re aware of the problems in advance.

1. Being Dishonest About What’s Not Working

No one enjoys having the failings in their business pointed out to them. However, changes to your CRM solution, or the decision to implement CRM in the first place, do not come about because everything is working right. There are issues with the business that need to be dealt with, and naming those problems is the first step toward CRM success.

Still, careers are not built on pointing out one’s own flaws — and as a result, ego and fear can cause managers to soft-pedal problems or omit them altogether during the earliest phases of a CRM project, when goals, objectives and requirements are decided upon.

Doing this may temporarily assuage egos, but it sets the CRM solution up for failure. The choice of technology and the modification of processes that follow will be based on false assumptions and won’t solve the underlying problems.

Honesty at the start of the project is critical. If your team is unable to handle this, or if the process causes to much internal tension, then look to a third party who can help you get to the painful truth.

2. Rushing to a Technology Solution

CRM is often described as technology. That’s like saying an airplane is a metal tube with windows. It leaves a large part of the definition out; CRM is really a discipline involving people, processes and technology — and in that order.

You should first evaluate how your business works — the processes, and how your people use them — and then look for software that helps fix what does not work and improves what can be optimized.

In the case of small businesses, examining your people and processes may result in fixes that address your pressing problems without the need to invest in CRM technology. In any event, going for the technology first means you don’t have the proper criteria to choose the right software — and is guaranteed to saddle you with a CRM solution that’s lacking in areas critical for your business.

3. Failing to Lock Down Your Own Goals

The initial phases of examining your business should result in a list of goals. These give you something to execute against, and they provide something to measure success against.

Getting them wrong can be a fatal mistake, but they often are drawn too broadly or they are incomplete in their scope. Then, as the project progresses and new problems are identified — or as the capabilities of CRM are discovered — goals often change.

Be extremely cautious in doing this; if your goals are allowed to creep and were significantly different at the start of the implementation than they are at the end, it’s unlikely that the solution you put in place will be very good at addressing any of them.

If your CRM solution can’t achieve the goals set out for it, why did you bother to implement it in the first place?

CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz blogs about CRM at the CRM Outsiders. He has been a technology journalist for 17 years and has immersed himself in the world of CRM since 2006. When he's not wearing his business and technology geek hat, he's wearing his airplane geek hat; he's written three books on World War II aviation.

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